The Green Bay Packers have clinched the NFC North title and presently have the best record in the conference. If the Pack wins their final two regular-season games, they will earn a bye in the first round of the playoffs and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
But while the Packers have won four straight games and have one of the league’s top MVP candidates in Aaron Rodgers, that doesn’t mean everything is well with the team. There are several issues the Packers need to address and figure out if they hope to defeat teams like the Cowboys, Rams, Cardinals and Bucs in the playoffs.
Here is a look at five things the Packers need to fix before the playoffs get under way if they hope to reach and win the Super Bowl in what may be this team’s “Last Dance.”
- Get Off to a Better Start
In 2020, the Packers offense was outstanding on their opening drive and often jumped out to early leads. The team’s scripted plays worked well and the defense was at an advantage because they were playing with the lead.
But this season, the offense has started slowly in most games. In 15 games thus far, the Packers have not scored at all on their opening drive 11 times. They have only two touchdowns and two field goals on their opening drives all season.
In the first quarter, the Packers are being outscored 77-41 which means the team is playing from behind in most games.
The Packers need to figure out how to start the game playing well. It is one thing to fall behind against the Bears or the Lions and another thing to be down 10 points against another Super Bowl contender.
- Finish Teams When They Are Down
The Packers have recently seen seemingly secure leads slip away. This tendency to let up when they get far ahead has almost cost the Packers several games.
Green Bay led the Rams by 19 points after three quarters and then hung on to win by eight. Green Bay was ahead of the Ravens by 14 points with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter and held on to win by one point.
Against Cleveland, the Pack led by 12 points but needed a last minute interception to preserve a two-point win.
The Packers offense cannot get conservative and let up when they have a chance to put opponents away. If they allow a quality opponent to get back into a game, it could cost them in a playoff game.
- Run Defense
Green Bay’s run defense is still a problem. The Browns gained 219 yards rushing against the Packers in 25 carries last week which is an average of more than eight-yards per attempt.
While the Packers are allowing only 115.3-yards per game on the ground thus far this season, that number is somewhat deceiving because opponents are averaging 4.8-yards per rush, a very high number that can really hurt the team against a good running team in the postseason.
The Packers need to keep contain on the outside as all the team’s outside linebackers have struggled in this area. They also need a healthy Kenny Clark to help occupy blockers and get penetration in the middle of the defensive line.
- Special Teams
There’s nothing new here as special teams have been a problem area for the Packers for years now. The return coverage has been spotty at best and the result has often been favorable field position for opposing teams.
Meanwhile, the Packers kick and punt return units have not come close to breaking off a long return and have often struggled to field the ball cleanly.
Kicker Mason Crosby has been better in recent weeks but has had issues with his holder and long snapper and has missed nine field goals and an extra point this season.
In a close game against a contending team, special teams can easily make the difference between winning and losing. The Packers cannot make things harder for themselves by giving opponents a short field or missing a potential game-winning kick.
- Get Healthy
The Packers have been dealing with a lot of injuries all season and would benefit from getting some of their top players back.
The team has until Wednesday of this week to either activate CB Jaire Alexander off the IR or have him miss the rest of the season and playoffs. OLB Za’Darius Smith hasn’t played since Week 1 while OT David Bakhtiari hasn’t played all season. All three of these players made the Pro Bowl last season and would give the Packers a big boost of talent at high profile positions.
The Packers would also benefit from the return of starting center Josh Myers and starting right tackle Billy Turner along the offensive line and from wide receiver Randall Cobb who has a core muscle injury and has already missed several games.
Getting Aaron Rodgers’ toe as healthy as possible would also be a big help to the team.
The more players the Packers can get back in time for the playoffs, the better, but time is running out as there are only two regular season games left and maybe a bye week for these players to get healthy and ready to play.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
Click here for more great Packers coverage
Visit my Web site for all things Gil Martin